Ask the Expert

Avoiding the SAP FI slowdown by moving into BW

I have been working with SAP for 5+ years and I'm currently experiencing a slowdown in my core area of finance. I have some old BW experience (less than 3 month), resulting from a project in beginning of 2001 and certification at the end of 2001. How do you think I could best 'grow' into this area of BW? There are a lot of projects around, but most request 2+ years of experience.

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If you read my column regularly, you know that I like the idea of functional folks adding BW to their toolkits, but I don't generally see BW as a good focus for most functional consultants. But FI/CO folks are the exception, and here's why: the mySAP SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management) application is one of the hottest areas in SAP right now, and SEM works hand-in-hand with BW. There is definitely going to be room in the SEM world for seasoned FI/CO folks who have worked their way into BW and SEM. So there's nothing wrong with adding BW to your FI/CO skills; in fact, it's a good idea, but don't bail out on FI/CO for BW. As for the best way to get either BW or SEM experience, you are right, you are not going to compete effectively for BW-specific jobs at this point. What you need to do is to find an FI/CO position on a project that is going to be moving in the SEM direction in the near future. Hopefully you can be "in the right place at the right time" and get FI/CO experience that way. True, that's easier said than done, but it's worth a shot. It always amuses me when FI/CO consultants tell me that they want to move on because FI/CO is not marketable. With the possible exception of SEM, nothing in SAP feels incredibly marketable right now, but FI/CO is actually one of the better skill sets to have at the moment, as I've noted in my "hot skills" feature on the home page. There are a number of reasons for this, it's not all about SEM. Consider the fact that many companies are upgrading either to 4.6 or 4.7, and most of these upgrades involve FI/CO expertise. Beyond that, you may have received an email recently about the Solomon-Oxley act. The gist of the issue: SAP users will need to be in compliance of this act, which relates to corporate responsibility and financial reporting requirements. This act should push forward a whole wave of new FI/CO work, often involving 4.7 upgrades. In fact, I just heard from an experienced FI/CO consultant who was hired by a company that decided to implement SAP Enterprise 4.7 primarily to ensure that they would be in compliance with the Solomon-Oxley provisions. This could be a one to two year trend that really favors the well-positioned FI/CO expert. Of course, there are things you can do to prepare. I believe there are upcoming conferences on Oxley compliance for SAP users, so you could attend one of those. But more importantly, you could do your best to select projects that are upgrading to the latest versions of SAP. I will be writing more on Solomon-Oxley in the future, but my research so far indicates that any SAP user running Enterprise 4.7 is probably going to be in compliance (for users on previous versions of SAP, more manual adjustments may be necessary). After reading all this, do you still feel that you need to move on from FI/CO? If you do, I need to work on my writing skills!

This was first published in August 2003

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